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Fri10182019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

After “Are you still writing for that paper?” and “Why did I assume you were dead?” the question I’m most often asked is: “So, what’s good on TV?”

Sure, I write a readily available weekly column about what’s good on TV (and not-so-good), and produce a podcast (TV Tan—look it up on iTunes and Stitcher) covering the same, but you can’t be expected to keep up with it all. Quality programming? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

You do, actually: Let’s pretend that daily “live” TV viewing didn’t die along with print journalism several years ago, and let’s scroll through the week with a day-by-day breakdown of what to Watch (good stuff deserving of your attention) and, for the hell of it, Hate Watch (stuff so terrible that it’s fun to mock) right now. Or DVR it all for a weekend binge—I don’t know your lifestyle.

Thursday: Even though the network tried to kill its biggest hit by moving it to Thursday nights, The Blacklist (NBC) is still a must-Watch. TV critics are divided on The Comedians, but I say it’s a worthy lead-in to Louie, and that’s all that matters (FX). On the Hate Watch front, there’s Lip Synch Battle (Spike), a “singing” competition that’s done away with singing altogether. Jimmy Fallon’s next “viral innovation”: Celebrity Naptime.

Friday: Real Time With Bill Maher and Vice (HBO) for politicos and news junkies, The Soup (E!) for pop-culture catch-upists, and The Grace Helbig Show for … well, I’m not sure who this is for yet, but Helbig’s YouTube-to-TV transition is, more often than not, as funny as it is brain-implodingly awkward (E!). Also, Childrens Hospital (Adult Swim), because even you have 11 minutes to spare. Hate Watch: The Messengers (The CW), wherein impossibly pretty CW actors fret about the rapture and a desolate Friday-night timeslot.

Saturday: Orphan Black (BBC America) is one of the rare sci-fi dramas that lives up to its hype. Don’t be put off by all of the clone characters (most played fantastically by Tatiana Maslany)—if you can follow Game of Thrones, you can follow this. Same goes for the time-jumping Outlander (Starz), the lushly-produced Scot-drama that earns its nickname Fifty Shades of Plaid. For Hate Watching, My Cat From Hell (Animal Planet), because no one seems to realize that you can find a new, less-hellish kitty, oh, anywhere.

Sunday: A busy night, with Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, Veep and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO); Mad Men (AMC); Salem (WGN America); Bob’s Burgers, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Last Man on Earth (Fox); Mr. Selfridge (PBS); and now the new Happyish (Showtime) all vying for discerning eyeballs. Set aside some Hate Watch moments for A.D. The Bible Continues and American Odyssey (NBC); they’ve really earned it.

Monday: Bates Motel has cranked its simmering insanity up to full-tilt bonkers this season, while The Returned continues its supernatural slow-burn—together, they constitute the creepiest two-hour block of the week, not counting Sunday-morning news shows (A&E). Hate Watch Turn: Washington’s Spies (AMC), which is as obtuse as a tri-corner hat and somehow even duller than actual American history.

Tuesday: Catch up on your streaming—there are unseen episodes of Daredevil (Netflix) and Community (Yahoo Screen) still waiting for you. Hate Watch: Powers (PlayStation Network), the comic-book adaptation that can’t even.

Wednesday: Heard of Big Time in Hollywood, FL? It fills the sick-wrong-funny gap left by Broad City where Workaholics failed (Comedy Central). The obvious Hate Watch is CSI: Cyber (CBS), the stoopidest depiction of tech-terrorism since every “cyberpunk” movie produced in 1995. Do not, repeat, do not respond to any e-mails from your parents re: “Black Hat Hackers.”

Published in TV

The Comedians (Thursday, April 9, FX), series debut: “Comedy is like heart surgery—it gets botched all the time,” says Josh Gad (as Josh Gad) in the pilot episode of The Comedians. “But, if you keep it loose and don’t overthink it … you can fix people’s hearts.” Gad is the other half of The Billy and Josh Show, a fictional FX variety series that was forced upon Billy Crystal (as Billy Crystal) after his one-man-show version was soundly rejected by test audiences, and The Comedians is the fictional behind-the-scenes doc—follow? Even funnier than the idea that FX would buy a dated trainwreck like Billy and Josh are Crystal and Gad’s clashing heightened-character comedic styles: Crystal plays “Billy,” old-school and only mildly self-absorbed, whereas Gad goes all-in to make “Josh” a delusional man-child idiot (a role he’s played before, but takes to a whole new, creepy level here). The Comedians may not fix hearts, but it could fix Crystal’s comedy cred after years of lazy hackery. (Take note, Steve Martin.)

Louie (Thursday, April 9, FX), season premiere: After last season’s hard departure into the artsy (read: not always necessarily funny), Louie returns to more familiar comic waters with Season 5 opener “Potluck,” which re-establishes that no one can weave a wildly random series of situations into a satisfying storyline quite like Louis C.K.—with a tasty fried-chicken tutorial, no less. And yes, the “Brother Louie” theme song and opening montage are back.

Game of Thrones (Sunday, April 12, HBO), season premiere: Finally, GoT truthers (“I refuse to watch anything until Game of Thrones returns!”) have something to live for once again. You know, there are other worthwhile series on TV—I write about ‘em here every week, but I digress: With the none-too-dignified escape of Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) complete, Varys (Conleth Hill) provides him with a new mission beyond drinking himself to death in hiding. (“Can I drink myself to death on the road?” he asks.) Meanwhile, Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) rule in Meereen is being undermined—and don’t even ask about the dragons. Among the questions not answered in Game of Thrones’ Season 5 premiere: Which will crash first under massive demand, HBO Go or HBO Now?

Silicon Valley (Sunday, April 12, HBO), season premiere: Speaking of “datageddon” (my new favorite tech-nonsense term, courtesy of “Hooli” CEO Gavin Belson), every venture-capitalist company in Silicon Valley is now courting Richard (Thomas Middleditch), Erlich (T.J. Miller) and their startup Pied Piper, while thinly veiled Google stand-in Hooli is plotting to crush them before they can even begin. As he did with corporate culture in Office Space, Silicon Valley creator Mike Judge has painted a hilariously real picture of code monkeys as ill-equipped superstars, full of overly lavish (and overly awkward) parties and gone-in-a-nanosecond tech victories. The stakes are even higher in Season 2—or at least the jargon is deeper.

Veep (Sunday, April 12, HBO), season premiere: If you thought the country was screwed with House of Cards’ Frank Underwood as the commander in chief, wait until you get a load of Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her SuperCut ascending-by-default to the office of president: She and her staff discover something they’re even more inept at than managing the vice presidency. This leads to glorious excesses of profanity, trash-talking (Veep staples) and a scriptless Selina faking her way through her first speech as president. (“I detest jazz, but this is impressive,” quips her strategist, played by the indispensible Gary Cole.) Now it’s up to this motley crew to get Selina elected for real; she’ll be campaigning and “building a roadmap to peace” simultaneously … all of which will probably end in more frightening political truth than House of Cards, if not C-SPAN.

Published in TV

True Detective (HBO): Creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto probably screwed himself by launching this mesmerizing crime anthology with stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson at the top of their respective games. Good luck following up these eight near-perfect episodes.

Banshee (Cinemax): This left-field, visceral mashup of Justified, Twin Peaks and Fight Club went pulp-gonzo harder in Season 2, expanding the world of Banshee, Penn., just enough to introduce even more Amish mobster/Ukrainian thug mayhem. It’s that weird, and that cool.

Shameless (Showtime): Things somehow got worse as they got better for the Gallagher clan in Season 4, with William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum delivering alternately heartbreaking and hilarious performances. This is America’s family.

Justified (FX): Star Timothy Olyphant put his boot down and rescued Justified from becoming entirely the show of Boyd (Walton Goggins) in its fifth and penultimate season, and brought some new colorful characters along for the ride.

Broad City (Comedy Central): Few comedies arrive as fully-realized as Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s Broad City (though it did have a head-start as a Web series); their broke Brooklynites are the female flipside of Workaholics, only smarter, funnier and occasionally grosser.

Helix (Syfy): This Arctic Andromeda Strain/Walking Dead hybrid from Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica) crept up with no big splash, but it did earn a second season for 2015—catch up on Netflix now.

The Americans (FX): Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys continued to out-spy Homeland while still stuck in Cold War 1981, facing down more danger (and wigs) than Carrie and Brody could ever imagine.

Archer (FX): Meanwhile, Archer (code-named Archer Vice) blew up its spy premise and dove face-first into cocaine and country music. Literally.

House of Cards (Netflix): Vice president Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) delivered a shocking twist in the first episode of Season 2, and the train didn’t stop a-rollin’ from there. As with actual D.C. politics, it’s best not to think too hard about the machinations en route to the presidency

Fargo (FX): Lorne (Billy Bob Thornton), Lester (Martin Freeman) and Deputy Molly (Allison Tolman) shut down the “You can’t touch that movie” doubters from frame one with this dark, funny adaptation that faltered fewer times than True Detective. Oh, you bet’cha.

From Dusk Till Dawn (El Rey): Another film-to-TV transition that defied the haters, From Dusk Till Dawn expanded the 1996 cult classic into an even crazier, racier 10-episode ride where the definition of “the good guys” is subjective.

Game of Thrones (HBO): Like anyone’s going to make a list without Game of Thrones. Get real.

Silicon Valley (HBO): Mike Judge finally, if not intentionally, created the sequel to Office Space with Silicon Valley, a hysterically profane (and tech-jargoned, at least at first) saga about programmers in waaay over their heads. If only Halt and Catch Fire had been half this much fun.

Veep (HBO): Speaking of profane: VP Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her team continued to fail upward in Season 3, from WTF? to the brink of POTUS. Pray for your country.

Bates Motel (A&E): Murder, drugs, love triangles, commercial zoning disputes—Bates Motel has it all! Norman (Freddie Highmore) became as intriguing as mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) in Season 2, no small feat, as did some of the supporting players. Why wait for Showtime’s Twin Peaks revival? It’s already here.

Mad Men (AMC): Splitting the final season in half was a lousy idea (the Mad Men buzz is pretty much nil at this point), but those first seven episodes provided a course-correcting jolt that should make for a hell of a 2015 finale, whenever that happens (hopefully, not in the ’70s).

Orphan Black (BBC America): See Game of Thrones.

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO): Sure, it’s a Daily Show knock-off with F-bombs—but those rants! Corporations, media, condiments—suck it! Everything the overblown Newsroom attempted over three seasons, Oliver nailed in 30 minutes.

Legit (FXX): Poor Jim Jefferies. His Louie-like Legit finally got good by the end of its first season, then FX exiled it to the untested FXX for Season 2: no promotion, no viewers, just yelling into a vast, empty room. See what you missed on Netflix (along with Jeffries’ stand-up specials).

Playing House (USA): Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham as almost-uncomfortably close BFFs failed on network TV, but found a niche on cable with Playing House, which could be the first series ever to make pregnancy play funny and inclusive.

Parks and Recreation (NBC): While as excellent as ever, Season 6 probably should have been the last (maybe even halfway through), but at least we’ll get a proper sendoff for NBC’s last great Must-See comedy in 2015.

Rick and Morty (Adult Swim): Few “get” Community, but Dan Harmon’s other TV project, the animated, and simultaneously brainy and crude Rick and Morty—imagine Back to the Future with more universes, booze and malicious aliens—clicked immediately on Adult Swim.

Louie (FX): Louis C.K. made us wait two years for a new season, then delivered 14 arty-if-not-always-funny installments of Louie, which were rightfully hailed as “brave,” “experimental” and “mostly free of black T-shirts.”

Maron (IFC): Marc Maron didn’t stray too far from the formula of his debut season in his second go-round—regarding how difficult it is to be Marc Maron, specifically, and a middle-aged white dude with a podcast in general. Still brilliant.

Orange Is the New Black (Netflix): Season 2 leaned more dramatic than comedic, and pulled killer performances from everyone in (and out) of Litchfield Penitentiary. Creator Jenji Kohan is well on her way to achieving the heretofore-thought impossible: Topping her previous series, Weeds.

The Leftovers (HBO): Life sucks when you’re not Raptured, and The Leftovers was the ultimate summer-bummer wallow, not to mention the vehicle that finally made Justin Theroux matter.

Rectify (Sundance): And while we’re on the topic of dramas filmed in Depress-o-Vision … damn.

Longmire (A&E): In its third season, Longmire fully broke away from its Justified Out West trappings and became a gripping, dusty crime drama in its own right. A&E rewarded this creative triumph—and high ratings—with a cancellation notice in order to make way for more Duck Dynasty. Fortunately, Netflix came to the rescue, and Season 4 will be streaming by late 2015. I’m beginning to understand you cable-cutters …

Coming next week: Part 2—even more shows!

Published in TV

Game of Thrones (Sunday, June 15, HBO), season finale: Not only has this been the most rape-y and head-popping season of Game of Thrones yet; it’s also the most-watched: Season 4 has averaged 18.4 million viewers, beating out The Sopranos as HBO’s highest-rated series. (Just imagine the numbers if HBO Go actually worked.) So now HBO has even less incentive to send preview screeners out to TV critics—all I’ve received is this synopsis of the season finale, “The Children”: “An unexpected arrival north of the Wall changes circumstances; Dany (Emilia Clarke) is forced to face harsh realities; Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) learns more of his destiny; Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) sees the truth of his situation.” Wild speculations: Wreck-It Ralph; split ends; an Animal Planet reality series; he’s screwed.

Louie (Monday, June 16, FX), season finale: It’s over already, and while not every episode of the year-delayed fourth season of Louie has been “funny,” “cohesive” or, in some cases, “watchable,” at least Louis C.K. took a chance or 14 and created some of the weirdest television of the year—here’s hoping FX doesn’t reward him with a new timeslot in Comedy Purgatory (aka FXX). Overlooked in all of the critical analysis, C.K. also deserves credit for letting this season’s guest stars (especially Sarah Baker, Todd Barry, Yvonne Strahovski, Ellen Burstyn, Ezter Balint, Charles Grodin and, closing it out tonight, Pamela Adlon) outshine him. Hell, he even dragged a decent performance out of Jerry Seinfeld, something no one’s seen in years.

I Love the 2000s (Tuesday, June 17, VH1), series debut: About as necessary as VH1 itself in 2014, the I Love series was at least mildly entertaining when it was looking way-way back (although I fail to see anything snark-worthy about the ’90s—I’ll take Zima and grunge over Bud Light Lime and pansy-ass coalminer pop any day). But the idea of talking-head comedians riffing on 2000-2009 sounds as enticing as a second look at Paris Hilton’s sex tape, which holds up only slightly better than Napoleon Dynamite … damn it, now I’m doing it …

Rizzoli and Isles, Perception (Tuesday, June 17, TNT), season premieres: It’s not the best series about female buddyhood—that would be USA’s Playing House, which you should be watching, and then re-watching, much harder—but TNT’s resilient Rizzoli and Isles is the only current cop drama that gets the dynamic right without being preachy about it. As Season 5 opens, Boston homicide detective Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) is pregnant; medical examiner Isles’ (Sasha Alexander) relationship with Rizzoli’s brother is heating up; and you’re still probably not going to believe that R&I is one of the highest-rated cable series of all-time—just ask your mom, or HBO. Even harder to swallow: Perception is still a thing.

Fargo (Tuesday, June 17, FX), season finale: That full-year time-jump freaked everyone out a few weeks ago, but there should be no doubt that Deputy Molly (secret-show-lead-all-along Allison Tolman) is finally going to get her man. Or there should be plenty of doubt: Fargo has been nothing if not unpredictable; perhaps a tidy conclusion like that of fellow anthology series True Detective (which, it’s odd/funny to note, only had a fraction of Fargo’s body count) isn’t in the cards. Malvo/Dr. Michaelson (Billy Bob Thornton, who’s been fantastically evil) may well take out Salesman of the Year/wife-killer Lester (Martin Freeman) before Molly hauls him in, but The Only TV Column That Matters™ gave up making plot predictions the second Lester eyed that hammer in Episode 1.


DVD ROUNDUP FOR JUNE 17!

Authors Anonymous

A group of unpublished writers welcome in a newbie (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), who then becomes a best-selling overnight success. Will they let jealousy destroy them? They’re writers—of course they’ll let jealousy destroy them. (Screen Media)

Four of Hearts

A couple looking to spice things up has a four-way with uninhibited friends, and everything’s just fine. Kidding! The relationships turn weird and uncomfortable, further proving that porn is preferable to romantic drama. (Image)

The Lego Movie

An average Lego dude (the voice of Chris Pratt) is mistakenly drafted into an epic quest to bring down an evil bastard (Will Arnett). Likewise, an average writer dude is drafted into a quest against unwarranted all-caps. (It’s Lego, not LEGO!) (Warner Bros.)

No Clue

A mysterious woman (Amy Smart) hires a detective (Brett Butt—yes, really) to find her missing brother. Thing is, he’s actually just an adman who works across the hall from the real detective. He takes the case; nothing as funny as “Brett Butt” ensues. (eOne)

Walk of Shame

After a one-night stand, a TV news reporter (Elizabeth Banks) is stranded in downtown L.A. without a phone or ID—will she make it back to the station in time for her big anchor break? It’s After Hours in a ridiculously tight dress. (FilmDistrict)

More New DVD Releases (June 17)

Assumed Killer, Blood Soaked, Dark Souls, A Fighting Man, The Grand Budapest Hotel, House of Cards: Season 2, Joe, Joy Ride 3: Roadkill, Judex, Meth Head, Regular Show: Season 3, Teen Wolf: Season 3 Pt. 2.

Published in TV

Louis C.K. took a year off from his groundbreaking, innovative TV show to make a couple of movies. One of those films was the Oscar-nominated American Hustle, in which he played an FBI agent getting bullied by Bradley Cooper's character. The other was Woody Allen’s Oscar-nominated Blue Jasmine, in which he played a scumbag.

He played both roles amazingly well.

It looks like some of those dramatic leanings have worn off on C.K. The shows of his fourth season now feel like something from the Woody Allen of old—down to the white letters on black background credits that start each episode. (There’s no more “Louie” song!).

While this year’s installments are perhaps a little less funny than in prior years, they are still mind-blowingly good. FX has chosen to air the shows in two-episode, one-hour blocks, and while this means the new episodes will end sooner on the calendar, it’s nice to get double blasts at a time.

This season has featured several multiple-episode story arcs, all dealing with the turmoil of raising his kids (still amazingly played by Hadley Delany and Ursula Parker) and his hapless stabs at romance. I’ve yet to see anything as frighteningly memorable as Melissa Leo cracking Louie’s head on a car window as she did in Season 3—but the season isn’t over yet.

Louie’s fourth season airs Mondays on FX, concluding on Monday, June 16. The episodes are also available for rental via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

If you walk by Allan Havey on the street, chances are he’ll look familiar—but you won’t know why he looks familiar.

Here’s why: Over his long and varied career, he’s been in a TV show, in a movie or on a talk show (or three) you’ve seen.

He played himself on Louie C.K.’s groundbreaking show Louie. He was on an episode of Up All Night last year. He encountered Kramer on an episode of Seinfeld, and threatened to kick Larry David’s ass for throwing something in his trash can on Curb Your Enthusiasm. He had a non-trivial role as an FBI agent who convinced Matt Damon’s Mark Whitacre to wear a wire in the 2009 film The Informant!

You may have also seen him on Letterman, or in Will Smith’s Hancock, or as a commentator on Countdown With Keith Olbermann, or even hosting his own show, Night After Night With Allan Havey, for three years on the cable channel that would later become Comedy Central.

But despite all these varied (and undeniably cool) roles, Havey says his favorite thing to do, career-wise, has always been standup comedy.

“I really like performing live,” says Havey, who will be bringing his brand of personal, observational comedy to The Improv at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino tonight (Friday, Feb. 22) and tomorrow (Saturday, Feb. 23). “I enjoy the ease. I mean, it’s not easy, but it’s uncomplicated. I don’t have to depend on anyone else.”

The St. Louis native says he always wanted to be in show business, and went to Miami-Dade Community College to learn about acting. He says his first-ever acting role came in a musical version of Frankenstein at the college.

“I went to all Catholic, white schools growing up,” he says. “At college in Miami, the diversity was amazing.”

While Havey cites comedy as his primary love, he says he’s always tried to keep his time on the club circuit down to 12 to 15 weeks per year. For example, after this weekend’s shows at Fantasy Springs, he’ll be off for a month before his next show, at The Improv at Harrah’s Las Vegas, according to his website.

“I make less money, but I am able to audition for parts, and work on my act, and enjoy life,” he says.

He also says that these days, it’s tougher for an established-but-not-big-name comedian to get good club gigs.

“No matter who good you are, there are always younger comedians,” says Havey, 58. “And club owners—not all club owners—say, ‘Why should I pay this guy three grand when I can pay a kid $1,250?, and get the same crowd?' But the shows aren’t as good.”

Havey says he’s played Fantasy Springs before, and that he’s always enjoyed the audience there.

“It’s a great crowd,” he says. “It’s a good mix of people. Any time you’re in a casino, you get a good mix of people. There are young, old—it’s a good demographic.”

When Havey is asked what the audience can expect from him this weekend, he declines to offer any “sneak previews.”

“You’re gonna laugh,” he says. “It’s a good show.”

Allan Havey performs with Brant von Hoffman and Dylan Mandlsohn at The Improv Comedy Club at Fantasy Springs, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway in Indio, on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22 and 23. Shows at The Improv take place every Friday at 9 p.m.; and Saturday at 8 and 10 p.m., through Saturday, April 13. Tickets are $20. For tickets and a complete schedule of upcoming shows, visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com, or call (800) 827-2946.

Published in Comedy

It's the holidays, a time for giving people movies, because you love movies, and you want them to love movies, too.

You are bullish and pushy by nature, and this needs to stop.

This guide assembles some of the best releases from the past year. Let it assist you in the art of handing over a film to a friend to cherish and enjoy, rather than having him use it as a coaster or squirrel-decapitator.

And if you have a friend who would indeed ferociously fling a Blu-ray at a squirrel with the intent of taking the poor thing's head off ... perhaps you should reconsider this friendship.

The prices listed are for Blu-ray, unless otherwise noted. These were <Amazon.com prices at press time, and they change frequently. There are bargains all over right now, so shop carefully.

SPIELBERG!!!

Oh ... the Spielberg fans had a good Blu-ray year. Oh, yes, they did. If I have a movie-lover on my list, and that movie-lover isn't one of those lousy snobs who think Spielberg is a hack, I'll just buy him two or three of these selections, and call it a day.

Jaws (Blu-ray)

Universal, $19.96

The greatest movie of all time is on Blu-ray, and it's a winner. The transfer will bring tears to the eyes of those who were fortunate enough to see the film on the big screen in its heyday. It has some great documentaries on it, including The Shark Is Still Working.

Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures (Blu-ray)

Paramount, $64.96

This has all of the Indiana Jones movies on Blu-ray for the first time in one affordable package. It's a perfect gift for that friend you sort of like, but not so much that you would fork over more than $100 for them. Not recommended for Secret Santa office parties. Way too extravagant.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)

Universal, $19.96

This is the old-school version of the movie, without the damned walkie-talkies replacing the shotguns.

AMAZING DIRECTORS, AMAZING PACKAGES!

Tarantino XX 8-Film Collection (Blu-ray)

Lionsgate/Miramax, $89.98

This contains all of the films directed by Tarantino these past 20 years, plus True Romance, which he wrote. For less than $100, you can give that Tarantino fan every movie he has made, or piss off the Tarantino-hater for that same amount. You can't lose!

Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection (Limited Edition) (Blu-ray)

Universal, $207.99

This has 15 discs loaded with 15 Hitchcock movies and special features. You get Psycho, The Birds, Vertigo, North by Northwest and many others. This was my holiday present to myself.

TELEVISION: RETRO AND NEW

Steve Martin: The Television Stuff (DVD)

Shout! Factory, $34.93

This gathers many of Steve's TV specials from the early days, along with music videos and more-recent awards-show appearances. This is bliss for any Steve Martin fan. It also includes new interviews, with the man addressing each special and appearance. This is one of my favorite DVDs of the year.

Get a Life: The Complete Series (DVD)

Shout! Factory, $30.49

The great Chris Elliott TV show features him as a grown-up paperboy living in his dad's house and putting huge toy submarines in his bathtub. This show was really weird and always funny.

Louie: Season 2 (Blu-ray)

20th Century Fox, $21.99

Louis C.K.'s creation is the best thing on television, and the second season was as good as the first. The third season has aired, but doesn't have a DVD or Blu-ray version yet (although you can watch it on iTunes). Give the gift of laughing so hard that socks go through one's nose.

Metalocalypse: Season 4 (Blu-ray)

Cartoon Network, $21.83

You don't have to be a fan of death metal to like this hilarious animated series (although the music is actually quite good). One of the year's greatest special features has Dethklok's lead singer reading Shakespeare's A Comedy of Errors for 90 minutes or so. This continues the Metalocalypse home video tradition of Nathan sharing the Bard.

SUPERHEROES

Marvel's The Avengers (Blu-ray)

Walt Disney, $24.96

The Dark Knight Rises (Blu-ray)

Warner, $18.99

The Amazing Spider-Man (Blu-ray)

Sony, $18.96

For my money, The Avengers offered the best superhero ride this year, with The Dark Knight Rises coming in a distant but solid second. The Amazing Spider-Man was stupid, but I'm in the minority on that one, so I'm sure lots of folks would appreciate seeing it under the tree.

THE BEATLES!!!

Yellow Submarine (Blu-ray)

Capitol, $22.78

Magical Mystery Tour (Blu-ray)

Capitol, $24.99

George Harrison: Living in the Material World (Blu-ray)

UMe, $17.99

Chances are, you have a Beatles-lover on your list who would find great value in the titles listed above. Chances are, you also have a Beatles-hater on your list. If, deep down, you actually hate that person, give her these discs, and enjoy her "WTF?" face. Beatles-haters suck, so make them really angry.

<h/2>SHIPS DON'T SINK

Titanic (Blu-ray)

Paramount, $21.49

A Night to Remember (Blu-ray)

Criterion, $17.81

Here are two awesome films about the same thing, coming to Blu-ray for the first time. One has Leonardo DiCaprio getting really cold in glorious color, while the other has a bunch of English actors going down with the ship. Both are pieces of incredible moviemaking, and worthy of your average stocking.

THE SINGLE COOLEST BLU-RAY THIS YEAR

Little Shop of Horrors: Director's Cut (Blu-ray)

Warner, $17.99

For the real collector, this Blu-ray has the best special feature of any disc this year: You get the original ending of this twisted musical, in color—a huge change. Instead of Rick Moranis triumphing over his evil plant, he is devoured by Audrey II, who then proceeds to eat New York City and hump the Brooklyn Bridge.

GREAT NEW MOVIES THEY PROBABLY HAVEN'T SEEN

Safety Not Guaranteed (Blu-ray)

Sony, $24.99

Ruby Sparks (Blu-ray)

20th Century Fox, $11.93

These two gems didn't light up the box office, but they have the capacity of lighting up the various holiday things people put gifts under or around. Lovers of independent, intelligent cinema will see two of the year's best performances by actresses (Zoe Kazan in Ruby and Aubrey Plaza in Safety).

COMPLETE THEIR ALIEN COLLECTION

Prometheus (Blu-ray 3-D/Blu-ray)

20th Century Fox, $29.49

Ridley Scott's return to his Alien universe was a stunner, and the Blu-ray is packed. Make sure to get 3-D Blu-ray, even if you don't have 3-D capacity yet. That's because there are many more bonus features on this disc, and they don't require the glasses.

A REMINDER THAT LIAM NEESON ACTUALLY MADE A GOOD MOVIE THIS YEAR

The Grey (Blu-ray)

Open Road, $26.99

This one came out early in the year, and I'm afraid the great Liam Neeson performance will get ignored come awards time. Oh well ... it does have lots of snow, which is sort of holiday-like. It also has lots of wolves eating people, which might put a damper on somebody's holiday joy. Give this one to the person who doesn't mind seeing people getting eaten by wolves while drinking his eggnog.

WES ANDERSON RULES

Moonrise Kingdom (Blu-ray)

Universal, $19.99

While the Blu-ray itself doesn't have nearly enough supplements, the movie is one of the year's best, and is currently at the top of my list. It's gift-worthy.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing